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Introductory training workshop for ISSICEU field research assistants in Istanbul

On 17-18 October, Yana Zabanova, a research fellow from the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP) in Berlin, and Alexander Sacharow, a student assistant, organized an introductory training workshop in Istanbul for ISSICEU field research assistants.

The five assistants, who were competitively recruited in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russia, and Turkey on the basis of their solid knowledge of the Caucasus, come from backgrounds ranging from academia to civil society, journalism, and consulting. Starting from late October 2014, they will conduct field research on Turkish actors and influences in their home regions as part of SWP's subproject within ISSICEU.

The larger part of the workshop focused on methodological aspects and practical tips related to qualitative and expert interviewing, as well as on the goals and uses of mapping as an analytical tool. On the second day, the research assistants made individual presentations outlining their approaches to exploring Turkish influences in the Caucasus. During the group discussion that followed, the participants provided feedback on each other's presentations, offered insights from their own regional contexts, and shared lessons learned from their previous field research experiences.

First ISSICEU Publication: Uwe Halbach - The Circassian Question

Uwe Halbach from consortium participant German Institute for International and Security Affairs - SWP has recently published an article on "Russian Colonial History in the Caucasus and a Case of "Long-distance Nationalism" in the SWP comments. This publication as well as all following scientific documents produced by ISSICEU researchers can be downloaded from the "Publications" page.

On 21 May 2014 Circassians all over the world marked the 150th anniversary of the expulsion of their ancestors from their North Caucasian homeland. The links between this unresolved legacy of Russian colonial history and President Putin's prestigious Winter Olympics in Sochi have reinvigorated Circassian activism. While different objectives and methods coexist within the movement, the demand for acknowledgement of the wrongs inflicted on their forebears is shared by both the remaining Circassian population in the North Caucasus and Russia (about 700,000) and the worldwide diaspora (several million). What challenges does this present for Russia? [click here to download the file]

Call for Papers - Conference on "Religions and Secularities in the Caucasus" in Tbilisi

This international conference will be dedicated to the reconfiguration of the religious and the secular in both North and South Caucasus within a quarter of century since the collapse of Soviet Union. It will be held on June 1-2, 2015, at Ilia University, Tbilisi.

The years since the collapse of the Soviet Union have witnessed, on the one hand, new forms of religiosity and religious instrumentalization in politics, and, on the other hand, the reshaping of the discourses and practices of secularity. As in other parts of the world, in the Caucasus, the "religious" and the "secular" came to be perceived as the two opposed ideological paradigms, while in practice the boundaries between them have been unfixed and movable, both in the public and the private spaces.

The State has been central in all these processes - we mean here independent states, autonomous republics of Russia, and the de-facto break-away states. The State determined the ways of using religion as a source of legitimation, thus promoting de-secularization; it sought ways of managing religious diversity; and it worked, at the same time, to redefine and to institutionalize secularity. The role of the State was therefore ambiguous, and this might attend to the frictions between various political elites. Yet this ambiguity also reflected the larger social developments "from below" animated by various actors and social groups, who served as agents of either revitalized religiosity or secularity, or a more complex combination of religious sensitivity with secular habitus.

The conference will look at changes of religious landscape in the Caucasus through the lens of the common Russian/Soviet legacy which largely defined the forms of both religion and secularity as they were shaped in the last decades. In spite of this common legacy, however, the developments have been very different in various parts of the region. The conference will also explore the relationship between the local processes and the larger regional or even global trends, in view of the growing interconnectedness that affect the Caucasian landscape.

The possible themes may include, among others:

  • Religion and secularity as resources of political legitimation and of Realpolitik;
  • Institutional arrangements of religion and religious diversity, and their evolution;
  • Legal pluralism accommodating religious traditions;
  • Regulation of religious presence in the public sphere;
  • Overlapping, partnership and conflicts between religious and public institutions (administration, education, etc.);
  • Differences of secular/religious divide on national and local levels;
  • Public debates about religion and secularity;
  • Traditional religious institutions and lay religious initiatives;
  • Faith-based organizations and movements as new agents in the civil society;
  • Transnational and international influences in shaping religion and secularity.

The disciplines welcomed are sociology, anthropology, political science and religious studies.

The deadline of submitting paper proposals (about 250-300 words accompanied by a short CV) is December 1st, 2014. The authors of accepted proposals will be notified by January 15th, 2015. Please send your proposals and queries to the conference email:

The conference will be supported by the project CASCADE, in collaboration with the project ISSICEU, both within the Seventh Framework Program of the European Commission, and the Ilia University, Tbilisi. The organizers will provide travel support for selected participants.
Organizers: Alexander Agadjanian, Sophia Zviadadze, Silvia Serrano

Field research assistant position in Turkey

The German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP Berlin) is looking for a field research assistant based in Turkey to contribute to the work of the EU-funded project ISSICEU. The candidate should be available full-time for ca. 1 month starting in mid- to late October (there is some flexibility concerning working times). The estimated work load will be 25 working days.

The research assistant's main task will be to map Turkish actors and influences in the context of the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict. In addition to desk and archival research, the work will involve organizing and conducting expert interviews in Turkey (which will also need to be transcribed and translated). The assistant will work in close contact with an SWP researcher based in Berlin. Depending on performance and availability, there will be a possibility of prolonging the contract for two additional research phases in spring and fall 2015 (ca. 60 working days in total, subject to change).

Prior to research, the assistant will be expected to take part in a 2-day introductory seminar in Istanbul (preliminary dates: October 16-19, subject to change).

The remuneration rate will be 30 EUR/working day.

- At least an MA degree in social sciences but preference with be given to current PhD students or PhD holders
- Experience in conducting field research
- Solid knowledge of the Caucasus region
- Native Turkish skills.
- Very good English language skills (data will need to be translated)
- Interest in qualitative-interpretive research and methodology
- Self-reliant, disciplined, able to work independently
- Trustworthy
- Able to do research on potentially sensitive topics
- Preferably with an interest in an academic career
- Preferably some experience in working as part of international research projects

Please send your letter of motivation and CV to Yana Zabanova at Application deadline: 27 September 2014 (early applications are strongly encouraged).

ISSICEU and CASCADE workshop in Moscow

On June 18, 2014 a joint workshop of Work Package leaders of the projects ISSICEU (WP1 - Political regimes: communal governance) and CASCADE (WP4 - Local Economic and Social Developments in the Caucasus) was held at the Institute of Geography of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow.

The objectives of the workshop were coordination on problem areas, methodological approaches and joint field work in the North Caucasus in the two research consortia. In particular, WP leaders Prof. Dr. Vladimir Kolossov and Prof. Dr. Alexey Gunya discussed the contents of the questionnaires, areas and timing of the planned fieldwork. It was decided to use the experience of the research teams in joint field research in Chechnya. A further joint workshop was agreed to be held in Grozny on October 12-14 at the International Conference "Problems of sustainable development in mountain areas of the North Caucasus in the context of global change: research and practice".

Support from the Academic Swiss Caucasus Net

The Academic Swiss Caucasus Net (ASCN) has generously agreed to support the research of ISSICEU with a funding of 15.000CHF. The money is dedicated to a quantitative survey on "Sources of Civic Participation in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgian".

The survey focuses primarily on the role of religious values and trust as potential sources of civic participation. The data will be collected end of 2014 in the three South Caucasus countries and in selected parts of the North Caucasus. ISSICEU will publish a more detailed report on the survey in January 2015.

The Academic Swiss Caucasus Net (ASCN) is a programme aimed at promoting the social sciences and humanities in the South Caucasus (primarily Georgia and Armenia). For further information please visit

Job vacancy in ISSICEU at Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (Berlin)

The consortium partner Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP) is currently recruiting a researcher (part-time 50%) for ISSICEU. The fixed-term position starts on August 1, 2014 and lasts until December 31, 2016.

Within the framework of ISSICEU, SWP's sub-project explores the role of Turkey in the Caucasus and in particular Turkish influences on the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict. While empirically the sub-project focuses on civil society, security and military policy as well as economic relations, on the theoretical level it aims at contributing to the interface between Political Sociology and International Relations.

Beginning on August 1, 2014 and limited until December 31, 2016 SWP is hiring a team member (part-time 50%) for this particular sub-project. S/he will cover for maternity leave until March 31, 2015 and continue to contribute to the project's successful implementation until its completion.


- Excellent knowledge of the Caucasus, preferably through field research carried out in the region

- Above-average academic degree (MA) in the social sciences, preferably in political science, sociology, political geography or anthropology

- Distinct interest in empirical and theory-oriented research

- Experience of working with qualitative-interpretive methods

- Fluency in Russian and English required, Turkish and/or German language skills are a plus

The position may be used for working toward further academic credentials (PhD or post-doc).

Remuneration will be in accordan ce with the public sector collective wage agreement (TVöD), remuneration group E 13. SWP promotes gender equality and particularly encourages women to apply. The application deadline is June 17, 2014. Please send your application to

Ludwigkirchplatz 3-4
10719 Berlin

or as an electronic version to: bewerbungen(at)


Strong response to first ISSICEU public panel

Tom de Waal in action on the public panel
Tom de Waal in action on the public panel

Part of the ISSICEU dissemination strategy is the aim to host public panels in the consortium partners’ home countries. A successful start into this promising series of events was achieved with the public panel held in Tbilisi on April 4th.

An audience of over 100, including a considerable number of high-ranking Georgian politicians, businessmen and European diplomats, had the chance to discuss the panelists’ opinions and insights on “the EU-Georgia Association Agreement: Opportunities and Risks”.

The panel included:

Tom De Waal, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Sergi Kapanadze, GRASS
Giga Zedania, Ilia State University
David Lee, Magticom and EU Georgia Business Council
Dirk Lehmkuhl, St Gallen University, Switzerland
George Welton, GeoWel Research

ISSICEU project succesfully taken off

On April 3rd and 4th the ISSICEU research consortium met for the first time in person on the occasion of the official kick-off meeting. The two day conference gave the researchers the opportunity to get to know each other and set the basis for the upcoming collaboration.

The meeting was enriched by valuable contributions from External Advisory Board members Laure Delcour and Tom de Waal as well as through a phone conference with the Brussels-based EC representative Simon Schunz.

Kick-off with Public Panel in Tbilisi

On the occasion of the official kick-off meeting, which will take place in Tbilisi on 3rd – 4th April, ISSICEU will host a public panel on the EU – Georgian association agreement.

The panel will include high-ranked Georgian politicians, businessmen and local experts on EU-related issues and will be co-chaired by ISSICEU researchers Prof. Dirk Lehmkuhl and George Welton. The event will take place in Betsy’s Hotel, 32/34 Kote Makashvili St, Tbilisi, on 4th April at 19.00.